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Mary J Blige

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Andre Harrell picAndre Harrell has always been a trailblazer. Be it as one half of early 80s rap duo Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, where the pair rocked sharp suits as opposed to the obligatory jeans, sports jerseys and baseball caps. And then in the mid 80s-mid-90s as president of Uptown Records, an imprint on MCA, which kick started the whole ‘ghetto fabulous’ movement and assisted in ushering in  the mainstream’s unapologetic love affair with black culture as we currently know it, from the music, the fashion, the lifestyle and the swag.

The label also changed the music industry forever by introducing acts such as Mary J Blige, Jodeci, Guy, Heavy D and the Boys and Al B Sure, who, aside from becoming a success in their own right and carving their place in music history, became a blueprint for countless acts who followed. Uptown was also where Teddy Riley’s New Jack Swing sound first began to thrive. Andre is also responsible for giving Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs his start in the music industry when he hired him as an intern at Uptown Records in 1993. And contrary to urban myth he didn’t fire him, that was Uptown’s then General Manager Mark Siegel – but that’s another story for another time.

But back to Andre, who also bought us blue-eyed soul crooner Robin Thicke, and his most recent carnation as CEO of the relatively new Harrell Records, where acts include r&b male quintet Hamilton Park.

The primary reason for doing this interview is he is currently on the look out for some more acts to add to his stable. Which is why he has embarked on a fantastic and innovative global talent search project with Blazetrak, a web platform that provides direct video access to the world’s top professionals. From now through to November 30th, 2011 Andre will be accepting auditions via Blazetrak.com from artists and aspiring producer/songwriters. He will personally review each and every submission, and all entrants are guaranteed a video response/critique directly from Andre himself. Then, after reviewing all the entries, on 10 January, 2012 he will announce the winning recipient of a record deal or production/publishing deal. Already, the talent search is gaining some serious buzz, with multiple tweets going out from Diddy, Mary J. Blige, Jermaine Dupri, Russell Simmons and Robin Thicke on Twitter. Here’s what Andre had to say about the project, his history and impact in the music industry and the many artists and figures whose careers he is responsible for kick-starting.

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Lauryn Hill’s slot at the New York leg of annual hip hop festival Rock the Bells was the talk of the music industry this past weekend. The respected and much-loved singer was on top form at the show, not necessarily in voice, but definitely in enthusiam. And she bought out some special guests to sweeten the deal, in the form of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Mary J Blige, comedian Chris Rock, a heavily pregnant Alicia Keys, Alicia’s new hubby Swizz Beatz and John Legend.

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R-KellyRecently a friend of mine said he was torn about attending R.Kelly’s upcoming UK show. When I asked why, he admitted that as much as he liked his music he still had a bit of a problem with the whole under-age sex tape scandal that exploded a few years back (this resulted in a criminal trial, where Kelly was found not guilty of charges of child pornography).

I totally respect my friend’s opinion, as everyone has one, but I cannot lie, while I’ve never really got too much into the man as an individual, I still rock with R.Kelly when it comes to his music. And when I say that, I am largely talking about stuff that came out in the 90s, e.g the Born Into the 90s, 12 Play, and R albums, and the very early 2000′s, namely TP2, which was released in 2000, so can still be considered old school – just – LOL!

I also respect his talent as a songwriter and producer, who has constructed hits for himself, some of the biggest artists in the world; from Michael Jackson, Celine Dion, Mary J Blige, and Luther Vandross, as well as  for his proteges such as Aaliyah, Sparkle and Changing Faces.


Before I proceed, we have a little competition on offer for all your R.Kelly fans out there. As most of you will be aware the talented performer is doing a few UK shows next month, including two shows at the Hammersmith Apollo in London on 9th and 10th April, 2010.

To show appreciation to everyone who has supported this blog over the last four months, I have 2 pairs of tickets for R.Kelly’s 9th April show and two copies of his latest album Untitled to give away.

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Mary J Blige is one of the most consistent female singers in the music industry today, and probably my favourite female singer of all time. And not just because everyone says I look like her.

Her music career has spanned nearly 20 years, which is ultra impressive for any artist, let alone a contemporary r&b singer, as this particular genre is so fickle and has seen a multitude of good acts come and go.

But Mary has managed to  buck the trend by keeping things fresh – her look has evolved throughout the years. And her honest,  raw and highly-relatable lyrics, have allowed audiences to identify with her on each album, e.g, her 2007/8 smash single Just Fine (below), from the album of the same name.

Since 1991, Mary has won nine Grammy awards, sold 48 million records, and has managed to maintain a huge amount of respect with fellow artists and fans.

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Pairing: Beyonce and Alicia Keys in Rio

This week the web has been buzzing with stolen shots of Alicia Keys and Beyonce filming the new video for their duet Put It In A Love Song. Set  in sunny Rio de Janeiro, the video appears to have a colourful carnival theme, with the ladies dressed in an array of sexy and African-inspired outfits.

I wasn’t a major fan of the ballad, which features on Alicia Key’s current album The Element of Freedom, when I initially heard it, but the video is looking good.

Alicia and Beyonce getting together on a song made me cast my mind back to some memorable old school  female collaborations. check them out after the cut!